Chapter 42 – The beginning of the end

It was a small house in the middle of no-where-land. I couldn't have asked for anything more. Life was simple and things were going well. Malcolm, or should I say Maxwell hadn't said the L-word since the day after we got back to the US and I was quite content with that. Things were just too crazy to be falling in love and I was terrified of going down that road again so soon, seeing as Julian had been the first person of the opposite sex to ever declare that much of a depth of love for me. I knew Malcolm wasn't insane, and I didn't think that he would try to hurt me, but still, the thought of pursuing a relationship even slightly more than friendly was beyond my current capacity. Malcolm was cool about it. He had seemed too eager at the beginning, but after a few weeks his heart had settled and we found a regular pace to follow. We had separate bedrooms, separate showers and we had a mutual agreement that a strict policy of friendship would be the ideal route to start.

Malcolm found a job as a chef in local gourmet restaurant. We didn't need the money really, but it was just something to keep him busy. He had a lot of nervous energy that he still needed to settle, and putting his hands to work was the only way he could figure to release some of the energy. One of his talents that had hidden behind his "entrepreneurial expertise" (alright, let's just get it out there, the man was an assassin for hire), was that Malcolm was an extremely good cook. In the month that I had been home – well, to my new home, I had gained back every single pound that I had lost in being with Julian for three months. He spent most of the nights and weekends at the restaurant, bringing home leftovers every night for a cheap dinner that couldn't be beat. I wasn't too keen on spending dark nights alone, but I also realized that I needed to suck it up and move on, otherwise I would be trapped in Julian's possession forever, dead or alive.

I was by no means, scar-free. Don't think that my life became this picture-perfect life wrapped up in a little box after I came home to live with Malcolm. I was still scared out of my mind and I still woke up in the middle of the night sometimes screaming. Malcolm come into my room to find me crying and in my fits of tears, it was easy to confuse him for a bad man that had once had me. Everything felt so distant and unreal. I couldn't believe that it had happened. And yet every night when I closed my eyes, it seemed like I re-entered a nightmare with a new chapter. The dreams felt so real. And it was true that the danger was still real too. Malcolm was right. Just because Julian was dead, didn't mean that the threat was dead too. Killing the son of powerful drug lord only opened up the doors to other psychopaths to come and try to get me. Perhaps as Ari Wilson from Kalamazoo, they'd never find me. At least that was what I hoped. I had no idea what sorts of resources they had at their hands.

As for my future, Malcolm had convinced me to get a GED since I couldn't go back to high school. After passing the test, I decided to do a year at a community college before transferring to a four year school. I was worried at first that money would be a problem until Maxwell had reminded me conveniently of the $300,000 that my parents had paid them. As if that weren't enough, a month after we had moved into our small house in Kalamazoo, Michigan a letter arrived in the mail. It was from Max's friend Roger and the check was for over 1 million dollars and it was made out to me.

When I tore open the envelope and stared at all of the zeros, I looked back at Max to see if he knew what was going on. "What kind of sick joke is this?" I stared back at the check.

"Roger is good at what at he does. And we have friends who have friends. That would be your inheritance from your parents. There is nothing illegal here. That money is rightfully yours."

"But how -"

"Don't worry about it Ari. It's taken care of. You're taken care of. Everything is going to be just fine."

I looked back at Malcolm, er – Maxwell, grinning. I was starting at a community college in the fall, and filling out applications to transfer for the following year. I was going to try again at a life that I thought I had lost and Malcolm was going to help me get through it.

Later that week, I got another letter in the mail that appeared to be from the same address. Malcolm was out at the store when the mail truck came, and I thought nothing of it when I tore open the envelope. I couldn't imagine that there would be another check in there and curiosity had gotten the better of me.

At the bottom of the envelope rested a slightly crinkled photograph, unmistakably me, lying on Julian's bed in the wedding gown he had forced me to wear. I swept away a tear that threatened to dribble down my cheek and I pulled out a neat piece of paper with a giant P stamped elegantly on the top of it. In neat calligraphy it read simply "My brother left this to my inheritance. What was once his is now mine. See you soon."